By Jordan Halloran| Year 22 Lehac AmeriCorps Member
As a Cape native who loves everything about this little island, I was extremely excited to serve with AmeriCorp Cape Cod. After researching the types of projects ACC members are involved in and learning about the skills the acquire, I knew this was the best place to start my post-college career. I graduated with a degree in marine biology and environmental studies, but I had absolutely no idea what field I wanted to go into. The world of ocean sciences is so vast. After spending 4 years attending college in Florida, I really missed fall and, though some won’t believe me, winter! When envisioning my first fall back in New England I didn’t picture COVID-19 regulations or personal medical struggles. Nonetheless, my first month in the ACC program has been a dream.
With COVID-19 regulations, there are fewer members in the house than previous years (4 members opposed to the previous 13) and some things do feel a bit strange. My housemates and I are constantly questioning “what if there were 13 of us?” Fewer housemates definitely makes for a very different experience than the ones we hear about, but nonetheless an amazing one so far. Something I didn’t expect was the number of past service members still working on Cape Cod. Many of our service partners have served during previous program years, and hearing about their experiences is a reassuring aspect of this program. Along with a smaller house, COVID-19 has altered other aspects of living on Cape Cod I was excited about. Fall on Cape is historically filled with beautiful festivals. Those at the top of my list were the Wellfleet Oyster Festival and the Harwich Cranberry Festival. In place of these events, my housemates and I are planning culinary events for ourselves. I put together “must make” lists of delicious sounding oyster and cranberry recipes.
Despite being filled with doctor’s appointments and tonsillitis, my first month of training was thrilling. I had never used power tools and learned that I really enjoy using a brush cutter. Using the power tools and some hand tools, half of Corps helped to clear out porcelain berry and remove bittersweet vine from two eastern black walnut trees at the Brewster Conservation Trust. Though others were quick to remind me the bittersweet will grow back, I still felt accomplished being able to not only see both trees but to see them free of vines. Learning plant identification of both native and non-native plants has made everything more vivid. Everywhere I look is a plant, or many, that I know. After learning the non-native, invasive autumn olive was edible, my housemates and I were inspired to make jam. The jam was too tart for some, but tart is my middle name. It reminded me of the tart Toka plum jam we tried from the Wellfleet flea market.
Other than cooking and baking my way through Cape Cod, I was also excited to get out on the water during my first month in ACC. Part of our training brought us to the Wellfleet Shellfish Department. With them, we cleaned off clam nets which are in place to keep planted quahogs safe from large predators, such as crabs, until they’re large enough to evade that risk on their own. Oysters are protected from a similar threat in a much different way. Seed oysters are put in bags on racks. The racks, placed in the intertidal zone, are covered by the high tide and exposed during the low tide. During training, we collected bags of oysters from the racks and brought them out on the harbor for release. Deputy Constable “Johnny Clam” doesn’t release oysters anywhere if hasn’t walked the bottom to know what sediment lies underneath, so we headed out to an area he pre-marked. As he drove the boat back and forth between two green buoys, my housemates and I with the help of a local fisherman dumped bag after bag of oysters into the Wellfleet harbor. The work for the day was laborious, but it was very satisfying. The week after this service project I would officially find out that Wellfleet Shellfish Department is one of my Individual Placements; though, unofficially, I had a feeling.
I recently graduated college with a degree in marine biology; however, I still never pictured myself working with shellfish. I especially did not see myself working with any invertebrates after taking an invertebrate zoology course this past fall. Bogged down by the weight of the content, I brushed off study of any phylum without a vertebra. But after just one day of training and one day of serving, I’ve changed my tune. My first day serving with Wellfleet Shellfish involved everything I love to do. I was able to get out on the boat; Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries was performing water quality testing to determine which particular shellfish sites may be reopened. I was also shown the various facilities managed by the department; this included town landings and shellfishing sites. I’m ecstatic to be serving with the Wellfleet Shellfish Department and can’t wait to help with projects that will increase the harvest for local fishermen. I’m also excited to continue a family legacy of working within the Cape’s fisheries.